Afghanistan: Loya jirga approves release of 400 Taliban prisoners

KABUL (Monitoring Desk): The Loya Jirga, the grand assembly, in a resolution issued on Sunday approved the release of the 400 Taliban prisoners in an aim to quickly start the intra-Afghan talks and bring about a ceasefire and an end to the nation’s war.

The resolution, which has 25 articles, was issued at today’s Loya Jirga session. President Ashraf Ghani, former president Hamid Karzai and other political figures has called on the Taliban for an immediate start to the intra-Afghan talks.

The members of the Loya Jirga in the resolution welcome and support the lasting peace with dignity to bring peace and stability to the country.

The resolution also states that if foreign fighters are among the 400 Taliban prisoners “they must be handed over to their countries with valid guarantee.”

It also said that the release of the remaining Taliban prisoners must come with the assurance that the direct talks between the government and the Taliban will start “without any excuses.”

The resolution also called for an immediate and long-lasting ceasefire and called on the International community and the Unites States to implement their commitment regarding this.

The statement also said that the people and the government of Afghanistan must be assured that the released Taliban prisoners “will not return to war and their activity will be monitored.”

The resolution urged the international community to cease direct and indirect intervention in Afghanistan’s affairs and to cease their support for terrorist groups.

They urged the Taliban and Afghan government to end the violence and conflict in the country and to solve the rifts through negotiations.

It’s also pointed out that the “Islamic values, the role of scholars, basic government institutions, democracy and thr two-decade achievements of Afghanistan “must be preserved and strengthened.”

The resolution also pointed that the members of the Loya Jirga believes that women, as half of the body of society, should have a legal and political status and play a constructive role and participation in all stages of the process.

The Loya Jirga members also believe that the Constitution is a national guarantee which must be preserved, but, if necessary, it is possible to amend it, in accordance with the mechanism provided for within it.

The resoution mentioned that the Afghan security forces are guardians of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and must be “supported and strengthened.”

According to government data, of the 400 prisoners in question, 156 of them have been sentenced to death, 105 of them are accused of murder, 34 of them are accused of kidnapping that led to murder, 51 of them are accused of drug smuggling, 44 of them are on the blacklist of the Afghan government and its allies, 6 of them are accused of other crimes, 4 are unknown.

The list of 5,000 prisoners was given to the Afghan government by the Taliban to be released ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, which are now expected to be held in Doha.

So far, the government has released 4,600 of the prisoners on the Taliban list, and an additional 500 who were not on the Taliban list. These last 500 were freed during Eid in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire.

President Ashraf Ghani in Sunday’s closing speech to the Loya Jirga members, said he would today sign the decree to free the 400 remaining Taliban.

He also said that the Jirga also sends a message of unity, and commitment to the Constitution of Afghanistan, and a unified voice for peace, adding that today the Jirga has made history and the Jirga declaration reflects the views of the entire nation and the government.

Ghani said the Jirga proved that the Afghan nation and govt have good intentions for peace and that there will be no compromise by the Afghan security forces.

He said that the “ball is now in the Taliban’s court” and the group must show its willingness for peace by announcing a ceasefire, which is the basic demand of the Loya Jirga.

Abdullah Abdullah, the Loya Jirga chief said that the Loya Jirga decision has removed all obstacles to start the intra-Afghan talks.

Abdullah said that today’s Jirga has made a historic decision and he thanked the security forces for providing security for the Loya Jirga.

Addressing the ceremony, Karzai said he is full of feeling about the outcome of the Jirga delegates’ decision – on the release of the high-value 400 Taliban prisoners that was the key hurdle for the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.

“As the head of the Jirga said, negotiation wants patience, time, planning… All were provided by your decisions,” Karzai said. “Some of us had worries about what will be done for peace, what will happen to the rights of Afghan women and children and education, what will happen to the freedoms that we have achieved, to the freedom of speech… Be sure, peace adds to this blessing for us. All Afghan children will go to school.”

Karzai said that everything will improve with peace and that Afghanistan wants friendly relations with its neighbors and the international community.

“I call on the Taliban movement, as I have called them brothers earlier, to stop war, do not continue war, today the Jirga of Afghanistan has provided the opportunity for you. Start talks so that there are friendly and brotherly relations between us so that we can live together in this country,” Karzai said.

He added: “I also hope that there is no war from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s side. It was well mentioned in your resolution… I am so excited and full of feeling… With the blessing of your decision, we will hopefully reach our goal.”

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